UN shipping agency elects Panamanian diplomat as next leader

Wed 19 Jul 2023
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
Trade News

International Maritime Organization headquarters in London

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has elected Arsenio Dominguez as its next secretary general. The Panamanian was elected by the shipping body’s 40-member executive committee yesterday (18 July) to become the new leader of the UN organisation.

The former-diplomat and port administrator, currently serving as director of the IMO’s Marine Environment Division, beat six other candidates in the race to succeed South Korean incumbent Kitack Lim.

Seen as one of the early front-runners, Dominguez prevailed over Turkish candidate Suat Hayri Aka in the fourth round of voting.


For the first time in the IMO’s history, three of the candidates were female.

The secretary general-elect will take up his office 1 January 2024. His election is subject to ratification by all members of the IMO, but this is expected to be a formality.

He will serve for an initial four-year term, with the possibility of re-election for a second term.

‘Forward-looking’ IMO

During the campaign, Dominguez talked about his previous experience working in and delivering at the IMO.

He described his vision for the UN body as being a “forward-looking institution” that excels in “integrity, transparency and diversity.”

One of the themes of his campaign was work on sustainability and decarbonisation as well as the safety of maritime workers.

Dark fleet concerns

There were some questions on his background as a former Panamanian diplomat and his country’s nomination for his bid, since the Panama shipping registry has been criticised for flagging “dark fleet” vessels that are used to evade sanctions actions around the world, although it says it is dealing with the issue.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush criticised his campaign, saying that Panama was “unworthy” of the international community’s trust on the basis of these allegations.

Dominguez told the Lloyd’s List Shipping Podcast that he was aware his nationality would become an issue, but felt that it gave him “a right to criticise my country when I feel that we can do better” and that he had demonstrated his independence throughout his career.

His appointment was welcomed by Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping, who said that the chamber looked forward to working with Dominguez.

Career history

As a diplomat, Dominguez represented Panama at several UN agencies before entering the IMO in 2017 as a chief of staff, then moving on to directorships in to two departments.

He holds qualifications from Veracruzana University in Mexico and the English Universities of Hull and Birkbeck, and initially trained as a naval architect.